PHILADELPHIA -- The Mets are in the midst of one of the most dominant stretches in the 60-year history of their rivalry with the Phillies -- and it was on full display before the first pitch was even thrown in Saturday's doubleheader.
Well, the first real pitch anyway.
That’s because the ceremonial first pitch at Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park was thrown by a member of the Mets' fan group "The 7 Line Army," whose traveling party purchased enough tickets to earn a ceremonial first-pitch perk ahead of the first game of the day. The club's "general" strolled to the mound in his personalized Mets jersey to deliver the pitch to the Phillie Phanatic -- much to the chagrin of the hometown crowd.
As it turns out, that wouldn’t be the last time the Philadelphia faithful resorted to boos in an unsuccessful attempt to drown out New York’s sizable traveling contingent.
“It always seems like we’re playing a home game with Mets fans in the crowd,” said Trevor Williams, who tossed four scoreless innings in the opener. “I thought I heard the 7 Line today, so for them to make the trip out here, it's special for us and it doesn't go unnoticed in the clubhouse.”
With the Mets (78-44) already eclipsing their win total from all of last season (77-85), their fans have had plenty to cheer about this season, particularly against the rival Phillies. New York is 13-5 against Philadelphia this season with one game remaining in the season series.
The Mets managed a split on Saturday despite recent injuries forcing them to turn to a pair of pitchers who had made a combined one start for the big league club over the past month. Williams had pitched exclusively out of the bullpen since his last start on July 7, while David Peterson got the call in the nightcap after his only big league start over the past month came on Aug. 6 in another doubleheader against the Braves.
Meanwhile, the Phillies had ace Zack Wheeler on the mound for the first game. But one day after tagging Aaron Nola for five runs over five innings in a 7-2 win on Friday night, the Mets forced Wheeler to throw 106 pitches over just 5 1/3 frames while grinding out four runs against the right-hander.
In doing so, the Mets finished a perfect 9-0 against Wheeler and Nola this season.
“Those guys are really good, so I'm proud to hear that,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said. “When you're able to figure out a way to beat those pitchers, it means we've probably pitched pretty well on the other side to stay close to those guys.”
That’s certainly been the case in some of those wins -- like when Jacob deGrom outdueled Nola in a 1-0 victory on Aug. 13 at Citi Field. But there was also the stunning ninth-inning comeback in a game started by Nola on May 5 in Philadelphia. And Nick Plummer’s improbable game-tying ninth-inning homer -- the first home run of his career -- to set up a walk-off win one inning later in a game started by Wheeler on May 29.
One way or another, the Mets have strung together 13 wins against the Phillies -- one shy of the most by either team in a single season series. The Mets went 14-5 in 2015, while the Phillies went 14-4 in both 1962 and '67.
For the Mets, it’s just about trying to win another series -- which would be their seventh in their past eight.
“Just try to win a series,” Showalter said, “in a tough place against a team that's playing real well.”